First look: Apple's bionic iPhone X with Face ID

Posted:
in iPhone edited October 2017
Apple's iPhone X is the company's most dramatic rethinking of the established form, features and functionality of its iconic phone. It packs the highest resolution--and best looking--iPhone display ever into a smaller outline, radically rethinks iOS navigation and authentication and introduces a sophisticated 3D imaging sensor array that enables Face ID and facial tracking for Animoji, gaze detection, Portrait selfies and an advanced new frontier of augmented reality.


iPhone X




Out of the box

iPhone X is effectively an iPhone 8 with an edge-to-edge OLED display the takes over the entire face, shedding the iconic Home button and replacing its Touch ID with Face ID, a biometric authentication system that feels fast and fluid. It does however, require some significant adjustments.




Fortunately, the revamped gestures Apple has lined up to facilitate the removal of the Home button are smart, intuitive and open up new capabilities.

The worst part of the unboxing is that iPhone X still only ships with an inadequate 5-watt USB charger, even though the new phone supports Qi wireless charging and USB-PD Fast Charging. Actually using either one requires some additional purchases.

Setup is simple, thanks to iOS 11's Quick Start process that sets up your new iPhone using your existing phone and iCloud setup. iPhone X adds a new step for configuring Face ID, which involves effectively taking a selfie where you briefly roll your head in a circle twice. That's enough for Face ID to subsequently recognize you, using an adaptive algorithm that shifts as your appearance changes.




If you make more radical changes--shaving off a beard, for example -- you typically only need to reenter your passcode to confirm that you are still you. One potential disadvantage over Touch ID is that you can't share a device (some couples apparently configure a shared device using each of their fingerprints); Face ID is designed to work with one person.

Wake and unlock


One advantage Face ID has over Touch ID is that it's now easier to wake without automatically jumping to the home screen. On iPhone X, you can now wake with a touch on the display, or simply raise the device. This turns the screen on and shows you your notifications. It then starts looking for your face. If you point the phone at somebody else, you get a vibration and a shaking lock animation that indicates you have racked up a failed ID. After too many false tries, Face ID requires you to enter your passcode.

If it sees you, it immediately unlocks but you remain on the notification screen. By default, unlocking reveals the contents of notifications, a slick privacy improvement. Face ID consistently worked even without being pointed conspicuously at my face. Laying on a desk, it can generally see you from the side. No need to gaze into the device and wait for recognition. It's really fast.

Raise to wake, and you can immediately swipe up to get to the home screen. With competing phones in both hands, I found Touch ID to be essentially identical in speed with Face ID. There is no hesitation period of unlocking. It just happens. Swipe up quick in any app to jump back to the home screen. Swipe up and hold and you get a carousel of apps to switch between. An even faster way to swipe between apps is also now possible from the bar at the bottom of the screen. Simply swipe left or right along this bar to slide in the next or previous app. It's really fast.

The process for Apple Pay or in app authentication (such as making a purchase in the App Store) is similarly quick. To pay, you double tap the side button, similar to Apple Watch. It pops up a detail panel with a quick animation that indicates you've approved the transaction. In apps, you're similarly prompted to double tap the side button.



For Siri, you can say, "Hey Siri," or press and hold the side button. For a screenshot, you press the side button with the volume up button. The screenshot appears in the bottom corner and you can crop or mark it up before saving it to your camera roll. Press and hold those buttons and you instead get sliders to shut down the phone, make an SOS call or show medical ID.

TrueDepth

The magic of Face ID happens via the dot projector and IR illuminator that take a depth map of your face along with a photo, and use these to analyze your characteristic facial structure in 3D. That same system also supports Portrait Selfies with Portrait Lighting, and enables iMessage to capture your face and use it to animate an emoji, either to create a sticker you can use in Messages, or to film a video clip (with audio) that animates one of a dozen emojis. This is super fun.

Developers can also access TrueDepth to bring that functionality into their own apps, as well as using it for front-facing augmented reality. Snapchat provided a demonstration version of its app making use of TrueDepth to realistically animate filters on you face.


Apple's Animoji and Snapchat both use TrueDepth to animate graphics based on your facial expressions. Note no notch in the screen shots


Another part of the magic is the super advanced A11 Bionic chip, with special neural net hardware that handles the task of recognizing and mapping your face so quickly.

Solid, strong and beautiful

Like iPhone 8, the new model has a glass back and front -- using a custom glass developed for Apple by Corning -- sandwiching a strong stainless steel frame contributing to a substantial weightiness. The new phone looks great, in a polished stainless steel Silver or a Space Gray ringed with a darker matte finish stainless edge. Both insert the black TrueDepth sensor array into a notch in the display that makes for a distinctive top in portrait mode.




iPhone X units I saw at Apple's facility appeared to have incredible viewing angles, very strong contrast ratios with deep blacks and vibrant colors that made my iPhone 8 look washed out and lifeless in comparison. However, the review unit I was issued appears to have a display flaw accompanied with issues that do not seem typical. We are continuing to look into the issue with Apple.

Apart from that, the iPhone X display was so impressive that it was shocking to see how much better photos and videos look on the Super Retina OLED display -- images taken with earlier iPhones and copied over gained new life and vibrancy. Taking photos with iPhone X next to an iPhone 8, it was also evident that the new display was far superior, in both bright outdoor sun and inside, particularly in the smoothness of 2x telephoto video taking advantage of the new optical image stabilization now on both rear lenses.

While totally rethinking the familiar design of earlier iPhone models, iPhone X also incorporates the features of iPhone 7 as well as this year's parallel iPhone 8.

iPhone 8's headline features are now "a month old," but also deserve mention as being new deliverables on iPhone X as well, including the new aluminum-ringed, strengthened glass case architecture that provides a distinctive appearance and enables the convenience of Qi "wireless" inductive charging with iP67 dust and liquid intrusion resistance; new USB-PD Fast Charging; compatibility with EVS high-quality voice calls over LTE; support for True Tone on its 3D Touch, HDR Wide Color Super Retina HD Display; the advanced A11 Bionic, which features a new 6 core CPU architecture that adaptively scales up for performance and back down to deliver energy efficiency for battery life, paired with Apple's custom GPU; larger, faster camera sensors with deeper pixels for better low light photos, paired with an incredible Slow Sync flash feature for better and more realistic scene illumination.

Stay tuned for AppleInsider's full review of iPhone X.
patchythepirate
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 153
    Not specifically iPhone X but also for iPhone 8 users: I had no intention of buying a Qi charger until I saw one at Ikea for $11.99.  The long cable I was using was starting to go bad (thanks cat). The charger is designed to be installed in the table or desk of your choice by drilling a hole, and it lies flush with the surface. Pics below.  The hole saw was $5.  Ikea also has standalone Qi chargers for about $20.

    xzukonadawg682old4funClarityToSeeRayz2016wlymracerhomieTomEjbdragonradarthekat
  • Reply 2 of 153
    ClarityToSeeClarityToSee Posts: 32unconfirmed, member
    Great early review. Agree about the disappointment of fast OR wireless charger not being included in the box. Would have also been nice to have AirPods included with the purchase as well. 
    netmage
  • Reply 3 of 153
    I’m not sure why Apple thought early reviews/previews were a good idea.  There are UI changes with this phone and new gestures and other things to get used to. I’d much rather read a review from someone who’s used the phone as their daily driver for a week or so. Sometimes it takes a while to lear a new gesture and have it become second nature. When I first used the 3D Touch app switcher I didn’t think I was going to like it. After a while it became my preferred method of app switching and when Apple removed it in betas of iOS 11 I missed it a lot, My guess is that will be the case with the X too so less time with the device and then going straight to YouTube to talk about it isn’t good PR.
    TomEmuthuk_vanalingamKak1argonaut
  • Reply 4 of 153
    Appleinsider, Daniel, thanks mucho for having this up so early. Really cool that you got your mits on this guy to show us. I look forward to your full review, especially after that a11 chip dissertation you wrote! 

    Enjoy!
    racerhomielolliveradonissmubluefire1watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 153
    wizard69wizard69 Posts: 12,637member
    So is the phone bionic or Iconic?    The article title comes across as a typo.
  • Reply 6 of 153
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,432member
    Right, so you don’t have to hold it right up in front of your face for FaceID to work. 

    I didn’t think you’d have to, but a lot of folk around here seemed pretty sure you would. 

    Now Daniel, could you arrange for a friend to snatch the phone from your pocket, shout ‘Hey you!’, unlock your phone when you turn around to look, then run off? I’m interested to see how much of your identity is stolen. 
    edited October 2017 muthuk_vanalingamStrangeDaysbaconstang
  • Reply 7 of 153
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,698member
    Could you check if Apple have replaced the triple-click home button shortcut with anything? How do you launch the magnifier (that uses the camera as a magnifying glass)? 
    argonautnetmage
  • Reply 8 of 153
    Okay, it looks impressive!  Let see what problems come up and I am planning to buy an iPhone X when the sim free model is release!
    edited October 2017
  • Reply 9 of 153
    A minor correction: the 8 series has Retina HD display (2x) not Super Retina (3x).
  • Reply 10 of 153
    mubailimubaili Posts: 381member
    Any scoop why Gruber got the snub? but congrats on moving up the Apple ladder. Looking forward to a in deep bashing on Android phones.
    racerhomieargonautwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 153
    mubaili said:
    Any scoop why Gruber got the snub? but congrats on moving up the Apple ladder. Looking forward to a in deep bashing on Android phones.
    Just checked his site. :o Not sure if he’s just being sarcastic or really didn’t get a review unit and is pissed about it. Casey Liss wrote a blog post giving his thoughts on Apple’s reasoning around X reviews.

    https://one37.net/blog/31/10/2017/pr

    There are a few things Gruber has complained about recently like the MacBook/Macbook Pro keyboards and he didn’t mince any words on his dislike of the notch (called it gross) so maybe this is Apple showing their displeasure.
  • Reply 12 of 153
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,900member
    mubaili said:
    Any scoop why Gruber got the snub? but congrats on moving up the Apple ladder. Looking forward to a in deep bashing on Android phones.
    Who gives a crap about Android.
    watto_cobrabaconstang
  • Reply 13 of 153
    I would agree that including the 5w charger seems a little silly.  Apple packs in so much incredible technology into this device - including rapid charging and wireless charging - and rightfully calls it he iPhone of the future, and yet packages it with a pitiful charging system that was included in the very first iPhone 10 years ago.  

    I guess its similar to the Airpods.  The tech is built into the device, but you have to spend an incredible amount of money to use it. 
  • Reply 14 of 153
    The Verge seemed to complain about Face ID outdoors. Any thoughts AI or they are just being picky?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 153
    Kak1Kak1 Posts: 6member
    What about the battery life compare to an 8 or 8plus?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 153
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,471member
    mubaili said:
    Any scoop why Gruber got the snub? but congrats on moving up the Apple ladder. Looking forward to a in deep bashing on Android phones.
    Just checked his site. :o Not sure if he’s just being sarcastic or really didn’t get a review unit and is pissed about it. Casey Liss wrote a blog post giving his thoughts on Apple’s reasoning around X reviews.

    https://one37.net/blog/31/10/2017/pr

    There are a few things Gruber has complained about recently like the MacBook/Macbook Pro keyboards and he didn’t mince any words on his dislike of the notch (called it gross) so maybe this is Apple showing their displeasure.
    I kind of hope Gruber is getting smacked. He's become, to a certain extent, a "deeply worried" (his words re the keyboard) hand-wringer like Marco Arment. 

    There's a difference between level-headed criticism of Apple and this new style of apocalyptic Chicken-Little "worry" about Apple's "priorities."

    The latter spreads an unreasoned, emotional contagion of doubt about Apples's mind-set and future. This encourages the hater crowd, the piranhas of Wall Street, the ignorati among tech journalists, and could even spread into the ranks at Apple itself — where, after all, the Jobs project is just a shared vision — a vulnerable psychological stance, in other words — of how to force difficult advanced products into existence.
    bb-15StrangeDaysjony0patchythepiratewatto_cobranetmage
  • Reply 17 of 153
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,136member
    Great early review. Agree about the disappointment of fast OR wireless charger not being included in the box. Would have also been nice to have AirPods included with the purchase as well. 
    you mean to wipe out their margins? I mean thats $300 worth of merchandise you want for free. 
    bb-15lolliverfastasleepwatto_cobrabaconstang
  • Reply 18 of 153
    I don’t want sound like I’m trolling or anything, I’m picking up a new iPhone X on Saturday.

    But this reads a bit like a fan boy review. IMO reviewers should be a lot more critical of this phone. I’m in the getting one regardless crowd, but it’s pretty obvious to anyone the X is quite underwhelming. These snapchat features are an embarrassment, that graphic for Apple Pay approval? Wow! Awful. And where is the stand out feature? The notch?

    I don’t know / it just feels like a treading water phone to me really. 
  • Reply 19 of 153
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,689administrator
    kkqd1337 said:
    I don’t want sound like I’m trolling or anything, I’m picking up a new iPhone X on Saturday.

    But this reads a bit like a fan boy review. IMO reviewers should be a lot more critical of this phone. I’m in the getting one regardless crowd, but it’s pretty obvious to anyone the X is quite underwhelming. These snapchat features are an embarrassment, that graphic for Apple Pay approval? Wow! Awful. And where is the stand out feature? The notch?

    I don’t know / it just feels like a treading water phone to me really. 
    It isn't a review.

    "First look" means exactly that. Other venues calling it a review after less than a day of use? How can you get a feel for actual use of a device in that short a period of time?
    Solibb-15anantksundaramjSnivelylolliverjony0patchythepiratefastasleepEsquireCatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 153
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,396member
    asdasd said:
    Great early review. Agree about the disappointment of fast OR wireless charger not being included in the box. Would have also been nice to have AirPods included with the purchase as well. 
    you mean to wipe out their margins? I mean thats $300 worth of merchandise you want for free. 
    Nah, customers want the starting price for the 64GB model to be $1249¡ (I subtracted $50 for not having to include the smaller PSU, the slower cable, and the Lightning EarPods.)
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